Monday, August 31, 2015

Stronger Together

Last Tuesday night a special racial reconciliation event took place at my church. I have been wanting to write about it each day since but have not been able to find the words. It has taken some processing to quantify exactly what it is that happened. I have actually heard multiple people who were in the room say something afterwards along the lines of "I have no idea what just happened in there, but it was incredible, and it was of God."

A wise person once explained to me that rather than being "colorblind"--a favorite term used often by well-meaning white Christians--we should instead seek to recognize and celebrate diversity and differences, within a fuller context of gospel unity. People do not want their uniqueness or cultural heritage dismissed. They want it celebrated, and I would argue that to a significant degree, that is a God-given desire. The Lord is the creator of those differences and unique attributes, and they reflect his glory. It is only in the fullness of the body of Christ that the Lord's glory can be fully reflected. But it is believers' love for each other, despite our differences, that makes the gospel ring truest to those observing. (See Jesus' words in John 13:34-35.) That kind of love in action is a display of unity despite differences--often irreconcilable differences, if it weren't for the gospel. But our God is the King of reconciliation!

With all that said--those who use the term "colorblind" usually do so from a very genuine desire to love their brothers and sisters in Christ equally with those of their own race, and are eager to proclaim their desire to leave the race discussion behind. However, despite their good intentions, these efforts, I would argue, are a bit misguided. The discussion should not be left behind. There will always be sin in the world. Our sinful nature will always be apt to cause us problems when it comes to our differences. But the discussion should fall into the shadow of the cross of Christ, the ultimate equalizer.

Supernatural. Worship-full. Spirit-filled. Unscripted. History-making. Reviving. Reconciling. Unification. Hope. These are a few words that come to mind as I reflect on the events of last Tuesday night. The event was called Stronger Together: A Night of Unity. It could not have been more appropriately named.

One of the most powerful moments of the night came as one of the most difficult. The leaders of the service thought it was important to acknowledge where the First Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi, has been--and how far the Lord has brought us. Despite all its love for the Lord, focus on the Great Commission, and godly leaders--the church had unacknowledged corporate sins in its past. Though both the overt racism and equally offending indifference or lack of action was for the most part many years ago, it was important that we corporately and publicly confess and repent of those transgressions. That happened last Tuesday. And let me just say--the effect of that, and the spirit of unity that the Lord poured down upon us in its wake, was one of the most powerful spiritual experiences I have ever had. Black and white Christians came together, not dismissing our differences, but acknowledging them, celebrating them, repenting of past and present sins, and uniting in the shed blood of Jesus and in his saving power.

"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves." Romans 12:10. This is what happened that night. I pray that it will continue. I pray that the Lord will confirm what all those in the room and those watching live stream felt and saw that night--and that it will spark a change, movement and renewal among God's people in our city for gospel reflection through racial unity.

Even if you saw the entire program, I would highly recommend that you watch this short little recap video. The music it is set to is perfect.

 

 

"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 15:5-6.

How then shall we proceed? And why do these things matter?

Consider this with me. How can YOU be a gospel witness of unity in the midst of irreconcilable differences? How can you put another believer's cultural preferences first, even if their way of doing things drives you crazy? How can you, right now, today, "outdo one another in showing honor"? How can you, right now, today, reach across a political, racial, or other dividing line to show what can only be a Jesus-centered unity? James 1:22 says "Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."

Think of something right now that you can do. It can be big or small. And right now, with the transforming power of Christ that is in every believer--go and do it!

And do it not just once, but over and over again. So that His Kingdom can come, on earth as it is in heaven. This is the "why". I pray this will be so, and that we may be an ever increasing display of the gospel of Christ.

 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Happy Birthday Amos

My baby boy turned one on Monday. I cannot believe it. I know that is what all Moms say but I really can't. He is just the sweetest little guy you ever met. 

My friend Joy snapped this pic of us before his party that night: 


When I get home from work he wants me to hold him for at least 30 minutes or so nonstop--so I have gotten used to doing many daily tasks one-handed! I had a lot more to do yesterday though since what was originally going to be a family-only birthday supper turned into a neighborhood party of about 40 people, only a couple hours beforehand! I thought about the miracle of the loaves and fishes and said a quick prayer that my two casseroles would feed everyone! 

A pic of Amos and his little friend Lucy. They are in Mother's Morning Out together. Neither was too pumped about having a picture taken: 


Sweet Mawmaw and T.Mark with the "big brother" present she brought him. Mawmaw is pretty much the most thoughtful great grandmother ever:


Lizzie, Joy and my boys. The most awesome nannies (and friends!) I could dream of. We love you Lizzie and Joy! I don't know what I'd do without yall! 


Mimi, Doc, and Amos:


This was near the end of the party. My simple little prayer was answered! 


Amos and his Gran:


T.Mark and aunt Angie:


I have to give my sister a shout out. The night before the party I had gone to get all the ingredients I would need to make the main dish, and I called her to get the recipe. (I had remembered the ingredients but not the specifics of how to make it). She said, "Put your kids to bed, then bring me the ingredients and I'm making it for you." I protested but she would not take no for an answer. She knew I was tired and was working a full day the next day. The thing is that this type of thing is just run of the mill for her--she helps others constantly. It's just the kind of person she is. 

Family bday cake pic! Amos had a big time: 

Yummmm:

Poor baby wore himself out: 

 Happy birthday, my sweet Amos. In case you ever read this one day, I want you to know that I am so thankful for you! You are a blessing in my life and a good gift from the Lord. You are a joy and a delight. I love you! 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Tuckered

Amos' first week of Mother's Morning Out left him slightly tuckered, to say the least. I walked in at noon the second day to find him like this:


Bless his little heart. His teachers said he was playing hard all morning and and just rolled over all of a sudden and was asleep, just like that. Poor guy. It is going to take a while for him to get adjusted to his new schedule! I am so thankful for his teachers, Ro Ro and Lissa. They pray for each child by name daily. What a huge blessing and comfort that is. 

I forgot to take a first day of school picture, naturally. (I will claim that this was my subconscious rebelling against the incessant, unrealistic, and senseless demands social media places on young women, young mothers in particular. But I digress. That's a whole post in itself.) I decided a first week picture would certainly do the job: 
 

Memory recorded, check. Mom guilt semi-assuaged, check. 

Cutest and sweetest boys ever, check.

T.Mark has been blessed with an absolutely awesome, godly, patient, and sweet teacher this year. We already love Mrs. Megan! I can't wait to see what all he is going to learn this year. I can't believe he is in three year old preschool already! 

Sweet Mrs. Megan sent me this text on the second day of school: 


  In other observations--I know I am way, WAY behind the times on this but--Chik-Fil-A is amazing. I know you are all thinking, well, duh. But here's the thing-tonight was my first time to ever go inside a Chik-Fil-A and eat with my kids. How that has not yet happened, I have no idea. I drive through occasionally and have always been impressed by their service but had not had a dine-in experience until now. I met a friend there tonight with her three kiddos and my two, and they played and had a great time. Not long after we arrived, I took T.Mark to the restroom and when I returned, my friend had put one of those stick-on-the-table baby placemats on our table in front of the high chair. Surprised, I said, "Thank you so much!! Where did you get that?" She replied that they are complimentary here. And that in some Chik-Fil-A's they even have little containers with Cheerios in them for babies. 

Um, excuse me?? I had already been blown away a few moments before by the fact that there was a stool for little ones in the restroom underneath the sink. I didn't even see it, but when I was about to hoist T.Mark up and do the awkward hold the child over the sink  while helping him wash his hands and trying not to get his shirt soaked maneuver, he said, "Oh! I'll just use this stool, Mama" and pulled it out from its home under the sink. A small thing, but a big deal to a mom of little ones. I was so impressed. 

The final thing was when I walked up to the counter and the woman behind it didn't wait for me to ask but instead, she anticipated my need and asked, "Ma'am, would you like your beverage refreshed?"

 No raised eyebrow or annoyed look. No, "Refill??" Instead it was a pleasant smile, and did I want my "beverage refreshed". I think she actually may have even called me honey, now that I think about it. 

Why yes. Yes, you sweet Chik-Fil-A angel lady sent straight from Jesus, I would in fact like my Beverage Refreshed. 

It's amazing how far little things like these can go to make someone feel welcomed, appreciated, and valued. Note to self: explore how to apply these principles in my own home, business, church. 

For now though my little brain is tired. Maybe not quite as tuckered out as Amos on his second day of school, but close. 


Monday, August 17, 2015

This 'n That

 I can sense that "back to school" feeling in the air. People scurrying around getting  back into routines, new schools for some, and an anticipation of cooler temperatures coming. When I stepped out of the car at my office this morning, I actually felt a teeny, tiny bit of coolness in the air. Maybe it was a figment of my imagination but I don't think so. 

Of course anything is cool compared to 105 degrees. 

We took a short trip to Oxford this past weekend because Taylor had a speaking engagement in Memphis, so I brought the boys up and made a weekend out of it. We had some visitors in the front yard: 


By the time it was over with they were practically on the front porch. 

Last minute, all four grandparents decided to come up too:


We headed back Saturday night so we could be back for worship Sunday morning. It was a great morning--our friend Parker got baptized, so we went to lunch with a big crew to celebrate. 

Sunday afternoon T.Mark got to meet his cousin Olivia's new pet, Sy the ferret:


His main observation was, "Wow, Mama, he is LONG!"

Because my house is near the woods, we have about a million critters and creepers and bugs and insects. I can't think about it with any level of serious contemplation because if I do I will just about decide to curl into the fetal position and never move again. Arachnophobia would be a pretty accurate term for my problem. 

So when I realized that this is what lives behind my house, in the thousands, I practically went into cardiac arrest:  

This is a female orb weaver. She is eating supper. Or viciously dismembering a dragonfly. However you choose to look at it. If you zoom in you can see her tiny little man friend above her, cheering her on. 

Two comments on this. One, doesn't that poor little guy feel emasculated? And two, after he's accomplished his mission with her, is she going to eat him? I sent this picture in a group text to some girlfriends last night and as you can imagine the commentary was quite humorous. 

And lastly, I have thoroughly enjoyed lately the feature on the YouVersion Bible app that lets you create an image with  Scripture and save it to your phone to then be used as homescreen, etc. An easy little way for scripture to be in front of you throughout the day. 


This post was a bit disjointed, but that is a reflection of my reality lately. Perhaps cooler weather and a return to routine will bring a new normal and a settling in. 

Or, perhaps as my mother likes to say, normal is simply a setting on the dryer. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Thought Life

   I'm back! This poor little blog is neglected from time to time, but I don't plan to ever drop it entirely, at least not for the foreseeable future! Sometimes I forget the value of having a space to work out some thoughts with the written word. I used to keep journals, but I can type about a million times faster than I can write, so blogging it is! 

  What I'd like to talk about today is the struggle of how to think, as a Christian. The kind of perspective with which those who profess Christ must approach life. Living in a spiritual reality, versus what our minds and emotions often tell us is reality in this immediately experienced, physical world. It is so easy to be taken with what we can see, touch, smell, experience in a tactile sense, and then to live accordingly. As opposed to the spiritual, which can at times seem slippery, ethereal, and hard to grasp. It takes discipline, perhaps a lifetime of it, to know how to live and experience life within that spiritual realm and from a spiritual perspective. 

  I am reminded of the prophet Elisha and the invisible army in 2 Kings. Elisha's servant is distraught when he realizes that he and Elisha are seemingly trapped inside the city of Dothan, with the angry Aramean army surrounding it waiting to capture them. He cries to Elisha in hopelessness and despair, wondering what on earth they are to do in this impossible situation.

  Elisha calmly replies, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them."

   Um, huh? I'm sure this servant of Elisha's was thinking, "Excuse me, I know you are a man of the Lord and all, but we are ALL BY OUR LONESOME up in here, and they've got a giant army and chariots and horses about to bust in on us. Sir." 

   But the man of God knew what true reality is. Again, he calmly speaks, this time in prayer: "'O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.' And the Lord opened the servant's eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha."

  I'm sure all (two or three) of you reading this post would be 100 % Elisha on this, but I'm gonna go ahead and stand up and say I'm much more inclined to have the servant's response. Complete and total freakout. 

  What is difficult about all this though, when you drop down from the cerebral contemplation of the issue to the nitty gritty of life, is the juxtaposition and the tension between the physical and the spiritual. It is not by any means easy to just set aside what we experience in this very physical world to experience things only spiritually. Our physical bodies are not entirely separate from our spirit. The scriptures tell us that our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit who dwells in us (1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19). It tells us that our bodies will be resurrected and glorified on that awesome homegoing day (Phil. 3:21). Jesus instructs us to care for the physical needs of others. He recognizes those things as important and worthy of attention. 
   So those earthly, emotional, and physical desires we have are simply put, important. They are not divorced from our spirit. Herein, so often, lies our trouble. How can we experience and view life from the spiritual perspective when we are so constantly bombarded by what is immediate? Grief or sadness over a broken relationship, pain from a lost child, physical afflictions, feelings of resentment, jealousy, insecurity, you name it. These things can threaten to overwhelm and overtake us, rendering us practically useless. Or at least feeling that way. Instead, we should allow them to drive us to our knees in prayer, which will instill and produce in us a real and deep humility that is grounded in the reality of our sin and the fullness of what a holy God has done for us. 

  We are hopeless. Broken. Seemingly unfixable. 

  But those in Christ are redeemed. Covered. Adopted. Made new, forever. And in this mystery He promises, if we let him, to "open the eyes of our hearts", causing the scales to fall away, until we can truly see. See what is real, and not just what is immediate. We can spend a lifetime learning this. Until one day we will be raised with him and live in that true reality with him--the sorrows of this life far behind us. 

   I watched the movie Joyful Noise this weekend. Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton, and a gospel choir? Um yes please, for this girl anyway. Queen Latifah's character, at her lowest point in the movie, goes to the church house all by herself, sits down at the piano and sings from the depth of her soul a simple yet beautiful song--Fix Me, Jesus. 

Here is the link to it. (I would imbed it but I ain't that fancy. I'll figure out how to do that soon!)

  This sweet song sums it up. The depth of our human unworthiness is matched and covered only by the depth of love from a perfect, sinless Savior. Who can fix us, if we will only ask and follow Him.